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OT: AITA Neighbor Edition

CastleJJ's picture

DH and I moved into our house a little over a month ago. The community we are in is about 75% seniors, 25% young people/families. We met our neighbors next to us during the building phase; husband and wife, mid-60s/early 70s. They live in FL full time, but come to our state for the summers only. After they moved in, they offered us their packing materials, which we gratefully accepted and everything seemed to be great. 

A few weeks ago, they asked us how we planned on doing our landscaping, offering to pay us to lay their sod to help offset our cost. We got a few quotes on landscaping, but determined we would do it ourselves due to the high expense. We told the neighbor that we could lay the sod, but didn't feel comfortable installing a sprinkler system for them. The neighbors messaged back letting us know they were going to do their own thing. No problem.

Last week, the neighbor calls asking if we would like to go in halfsies on shrubs along the property line. The shrubs they picked will grow huge and collect bees. There is only 14 feet between houses so we didnt want to landscape there to make the sideyard smaller. DH told me this last night and the neighbor is having landscaping out today. I told DH that he needed to be direct and tell them that we are not interested, but also that he needs to keep them off the property line to ensure they don't encroach on our property at full growth.

We sent this message: "Hi. I spoke to my wife about the shrubs lining the property line and we are going to pass. Please ensure that they do not encroach on our property when fully grown. Thanks!" The neighbor responded: "Weird change of tone. As a reminder, our landscaping crew will be here tomorrow so I suggest you do something with your cable line as we will NOT be responsible for any damages." We responded back letting him know that we didn't intend the message to be harsh, just wanted to make sure we were clear and there wasn't any miscommunication; that they are welcome to do whatever they wish on their property, but we are not fond of the shrubs and ask that they consider full growth of the plants when planting so they dont grow onto our property. He responded "Message Received." 

I'm kind of at a loss as far as what to do. We plan to go talk to them to clear the air, but it just seemed like a drastic change. We are the type of neighbors that will shovel snow for you and check on the house while you're out of town. We called the neighbors when they were in FL to let them know their front door was wide open after construction had been through and secured the house for them. I don't get the sudden shift. AITA? 


stepmomnorth's picture

NTA. Your response was reasonable and you were clear with your message. I would say they just sound sensitive /easily offended. I would try to just forget about it and move on.

They seem like they have lots of (expensive) ideas that they want to go halfvsies on. Then, they make a judgement if you don't agree. To me this is quite annoying, I'm more of a private person. I don't want to be coordinating landscaping with another couple that I barely know. And I don't have unlimited funds. 

CastleJJ's picture

I wish we had a larger lot, but in our price point, this is what we could afford. And I agree, I don't have unlimited funds for landscaping, hence why DH and I are sodding ourselves instead of hiring it out. To do our tiny lot, we got quoted $10k. Absolutely not! 

justmakingthebest's picture

I could see how they took it as a little harsh but you didn't say anything unreasonable. Maybe a little more back ground on why you don't want the shrubs or them encroaching would have been taken with more grace from them? " We appreciate the offer, but with us about to have 2 young children, we need as much space in the yard as possible. Would you please ensure that your plants won't encroach at full growth? Thanks again!"

caninelover's picture

Question was asked and answered. If they didn't like the tone of it, who cares? You made your point, they will get over it. I wouldn't worry about it.

advice.only2's picture

I think the word encroach might have put them off.  When I read it I interpret it like “keep your sh@t off our property and make sure once it’s grown it doesn’t encroach on our space.”

ESMOD's picture

It sounds like they had the idea that any "divider" like landscaping would be a benefit to you both.. and in many places.. neighbors DO.. split the cost of fencing.. some places even kind of force that.. but to presume you have money available for professional landscaping and then become offended when you don't want to subsidize what they want.. that will benefit them?  That is a bit much.

I do kind of see where they could have taken the "don't let them encroach" as being harsh.. But, I get your point of wanting to preserve your side yard. I guess it could have been said a little differently.. but bottom line is that they can do what they want up to their property line and if their shrubs would encroach onto your side of the line..  you are free to trim them back to the property line.. that's generaly the law.

I guess you could have said that you don't mind if they want to put shrubs in their side yard.. but that you know that these shrubs can grow to be quite large and you want to make sure it doesn't make your side yard any smaller than it is.

But as things stand now.. it may just be something that you could try to mend over time... a welcome home basket of cookies or something.. Unfortunately, when they asked the question.. they likely just assumed you would love a half price barrier landscape.. and when you weren't as in love with the idea.. they got their feelings hurt.  

If you were really up for having some kind of barrier but preferred something more fence like.. or narrower.. you could always send a reciprocal suggestion.. but as it stands.. I think let it cool off and just be friendly wave neighbors.


EveryoneLies's picture

I guess because English is not my native language, I really don't feel anything harsh there. I also don't find your neighbor's short response being negative either. 
obviously i don't know your neighbors, but with my own next door neighbor we definitely had some ugly moments (like the time they partied into 3 am) but able to still made up - at least coexist civilly lol

like others already said, perhaps wait a few days and just be a friendly neighbor should be good. 

Stepdrama2020's picture

This is why I prefer to live on a deserted Island. I have neighbors just like this. The less you deal with them the better.

Be that distant but cordial neighbor.

ESMOD's picture

Reading back.. I actually think that even the 2nd response likely wasn't recieved well either because it is basically critizing their taste "we don't care for shrubs".. and keep them off our land.. which is absolutely your right to tell them how you feel.. and while they can still grow it on their property lines.. you will have to be the ones to trim if it overgrows.. 

The note on the cable line is stupid of them.. if their contractors don't mark existing utilities.. (a requirement in our area).. and don't seek to avoid it?  their contractor is liable for cutting the line.

But, in the end.. this was a situation that only had one way it could have gone well.. that is if you and your DH just went along with their plans and paid for 1/2 their landscaping shrubs.. they assumed you would love it.. and the chance to have to only pay half.. you didn''t want what they wanted at all.. quelle surprise to them.

CastleJJ's picture

UPDATE: We went over to the neighbor's house today to clear the air. He was definitely pissed and said that it wasn't well received. DH went on to explain that it wasn't our intention and that that species of plant attracts wasps because they like to nest in it and since we have little kids, we were concerned about them being stung and having that carry over into our property, to which the neighbor argued against, saying they don't attract anything. We said that we arent the type of neighbors to want to cause issues and we wanted to clear up any miscommunication. He kind of came off as a know-it-all and belittled us because we are younger (late 20s/early 30s). 

The neighbor explained his plan for the shrubs. He is basically lining his entire backyard with them to create an enclosed box, and yes, he will be putting them on the property line, which may cause them to overgrow onto our property. He said that the neighbor on the other side wont let him flow over onto their property, so if we didnt allow it to flow over onto ours, it would make his backyard smaller to account for growth, which I feel isnt really our problem. He didn't ask us to pay half this time. I told DH to just leave it alone, since he isn't putting it all the way down the property line in the 14 feet between homes. We seemed to leave things on better terms but you can tell he definitely wants things his way. We will be cordial, but I don't feel the need to be overly friendly. 

strugglingSM's picture

He sounds like he's going to be a difficult neighbor. If the other neighbor isn't allowing the shrubs to encroach then you shouldn't either. Does he plan to maintain the shrubs on your side of the property line? My parents' neighbor put in some shrubs, I thnk they even paid for half. Then he moved and the new home owner let them get overgrown and ugly. My parents have a big lawn, so encroaching wasn't the issue, but overgrown, unmaintained shrubs never look good. Will he have someone who comes to make sure they are maintained when he is out of town? I know that shrubs grow less in the winter months, but still...

I still think your DH should go outside and tell the landscaper that the shrubs are not to go over onto your property line. Also, in some states, including mine, it's the responsiblity of the contractor and homeowner doing the work to look out for things like cable lines. Out here, contractors are supposed to include how they accounted for these things in their permitting process. If you don't, you can get fined. 

We wave to our neighbors and periodically DH will go outside to talk to them, but overall, I keep my distance. We live on a small cul de sac and the neighbors on the end of the street are rude and judgemental. They allow their children to play in the street and then get mad if anyone goes over 5 miles per hour, because they refuse to teach their children to be on the lookout for cars and to get out of the street when they see one. When they are playing outside, I always stop until they move to the sidewalk. 

caninelover's picture

I wouldn't have gone over there.  I agree he will be annoying.  He sounds like the type who is nice only when he gets his way.

Does your development have an HOA?  You may want to advise them. And keep the correspondence in case there is a dispute down the road.

And because there may be a dispute down the road, no more going over to 'explain'.  Everything should go in writing with this guy going forward and as I said who cares if his fee fees get hurt.

Olivia2020's picture

split the bill for the shrubs. I'd make sure they have their lawn crew trim the bushes and clean up the clippings when the time comes. I had to trim my neighbors overgrown tree branches and bushes when I put my house on the market in Texas. 

They can arrange for someone to watch their house when they're snowbirding here in FL. Sounds like a fussy dude that wants his way. Annoying

stepmomnorth's picture

Maybe it will end up being a good thing in the end to have the giant shrubbery between the houses, lol. 

Harry's picture

They the neighbor are responsible to keep the plants from  encroach on your  property.  They must trim them back to property line each year.  Or you will not so nicely trim them back ie chain saw

Winterglow's picture

Check your local by-laws, there may be a minimum distance from the property line to be respected when planting shrubs. 

notarelative's picture

To me, it sounds like the neighbor thought he could bully you. (Can't encroach on other neighbor so I need to encroach on you.) Plus, I find it really strange that they'd ask you to do landscaping work in their yard. 

If DH is home when the landscapers are there, he definitely should go out to talk to them. I would not rely on the neighbor giving the landscaper accurate information.Your cable line should be on your property so there is no way his landscaping should affect it. 

Have you met the neighbor he can't encroach on? They might give you more insight into the neighborhood dynamics. 

CastleJJ's picture

Yes, we met the neighbor on the other side. They have developed quite a reputation for being the worst neighbors ever. They have yelled at every contractor that comes through the sub; the husband stood on the sidewalk the entire time AT&T was doing work for our internet and he was berating their service tech. I took DD for a walk in her stroller the other day and the husband was rude to me then too. They are a nightmare. 

Thumper's picture

I agree I-m so happy sounds like they were trying to bully you into a few things, like paying for part of their landscaping. Screw that.

Here is a tip---Know without,  a doubt,  YOUR property line.

Don't ever go 1/2 on anything. Better to pay full price than owe any debt in any form to them. We would not go 1/2 on anything with a neighbor beside ME or behind, or infront of me. Always a problem sooner or later.

Property AND property lines can bring out the worse in people.





notsurehowtodeal's picture

This - know exactly where your property line runs. They can't plant "on the line" - they need to plant on their side of the line. And in most places you can trim back any foliage that comes over the line. It might be worth considering some type of a fence between your property and theirs - they sound like they are going to be difficult in the future.

la_dulce_vida's picture

LOL - plant bamboo!! That will swallow their shrubs whole and give you a thick privacy wall. Just kidding. Running bamboo can be invasive. Clumping bamboo is the way to go and would likely win in a battle of bamboo vs. shrubs.

Exjuliemccoy's picture

Lots of good feedback here. All I can add is a suggestion that you check out the Tree Law sub on reddit. The nice folks there can offer advice and let you know what your rights and responsibilities will be regarding those shrubs.

At least your neighbor won't be there full time. Thank goodness!

justmakingthebest's picture

I came back and read through some responses, and if you are worried about wasps, I would make sure to have your yard sprayed for insects and tell them to hit those shrubs while they are at it! I know it isn't good for bees but babies and wasps are no joke!